Thursday, April 28, 2016

Flemings-Bar Menu

Hubby and I ran into Flemings the other night after an event—it was Saturday and it was late, so we figured our best bet in the area was a bar. I have always wanted to try their prime burger from the bar menu ($10 during their “Eight Nine Ten” happy hour from 8:00-10:00 in the bar). And we also got the tuna tartar tacos, which are $9 during the special menu times). 

The burger is pretty straightforward as far as the toppings go—there’s cheese and bacon on top and ketchup, onions, tomato and lettuce on the side. I will say, the meat itself is delicious—what you would expect from a prime burger at a steakhouse. We asked for it medium rare, and it was really probably more rare, but it was so fresh and tender, we were okay with it. I do kind of like the fancified sauces that some restaurants put on burgers, and if this one had one, I would have really, really liked it. But it was a very high quality burger. And the fries that come with it are also delicious. Thin and super crisp. Again, ketchup is pretty boring, but what are you going to do? Bring me some aioli or dijonaise anytime. The bones of the dish are very well done though, even if in a perfect world, I would alter the accompaniments.

The tuna tacos, though? No. They were not good. I guess there was some ahi on there somewhere, but between all the other stuff—radish and jicama slaw and “Thai vinaigrette,” you couldn’t even taste it. And it had a very distinctive sweet flavor that I just wasn’t into. I liked the little crunchy shells—and if they were filled with some nice acidic flavorful tuna with just a bit of accompaniments, they would be interesting. As they are, they are not worth ordering.

The burger definitely is good though. Next time I’ll at least ask for some mayo.

Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse
8487 Union Chapel Road
Indy 46240

Monday, April 25, 2016

Pioneer - Revisit

Hubby and I had an opportunity to go back to Pioneer the other night. We were walking around Fountain Square trying to decide where to go. We were going to try Thunderbird again, but they were full, so we walked across the street to Pioneer. The nice thing about this place, while it was doing a good business, because it’s so big, they could seat us right away. We asked to be in the bar, because it’s cozier, and they happily obliged.

We wanted to try different things this time from the last time so we started with the pork rillettes ($11) and the frisee and endive salad ($12). Man, they know how to do salads here. They may only do one on each menu, but so far, they’ve been totally worth ordering. Last time we had the butter lettuce salad and loved it. This time it was the frisee and endive lettuces topped with some shaved fennel, hearty chunks of blue cheese, toasted pumpkin seeds and “Austrian” ranch. Really good. The lettuces certainly have a touch of bitterness to them, but they were so nicely balanced with the creamy cheese and dressing. Loved the salty, crunchy kick from the pumpkin seeds as well. I would try any salad they offer. I find well-balanced, properly dressed, interesting, salads to be a struggle to find at many places.

The rillettes were not bad—they certainly know how to toast a piece of (Amelia’s) bread with a bit of oil just perfectly, but the pork itself was a little bland for me. I longed for the stronger flavor of the chicken liver mousse we had the first time. We did get the proportions of meat and the whole grain mustard served alongside just perfect though. The key was to spread a little mustard on the bread and then put the meat on top so you didn’t taste the mustard first---otherwise it tended to overwhelm the pork a bit.

For the main part of our meal, we had two more small plates, the pork belly ($14) and the potato pancakes (Kartoffelpuffer) ($10) and then the spatzle ($13). The pork belly was very good—two nice pieces of pork belly that weren’t too fatty, sitting on top of purple cabbage puree, pink oyster mushrooms and garnished with curry pickled mustard seeds. This was a lovely and tasty dish—although it was small, it was extremely rich. The spatzle was probably our favorite thing of the evening—the little spirals of hand cut pasta were so tender and cooked just perfectly. The creamy Comte Mornay sauce was so rich and cheesy. And the bits of spinach in there were a nice variation. This would definitely be a recommended order, and I know when we go back, hubby will insist on it. 

The potato pancakes were good—but so large and filling and not as interesting as the other things—they were basically like chunky mashed potatoes that were pan-fried and served with a bit of bacon jam, mustard crème fraiche and chives. That bacon jam was delicious for sure. Every bit of it got eaten, even if all the potato part did not. I recommend this as a good share for more than two people.

You definitely see certain themes on this menu—a lot of pork and a lot of mustard. Luckily we like both of those things a lot. Your vegetarian options are more limited, but the two we had (the salad and the spatzle) were actually the best two dishes of the night. So there you go.

I feel like this place flies under the radar a bit with everything that’s opening up right now, but it’s totally worth a visit. I can’t wait to see what the next salad is.

1110 Shelby Street
Indy 46203

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Ramen Ray-Quick Revisit

Hubby wanted to try out Ramen Ray since I had gone with girl friends for my inaugural visit. And I was interested to see how the new opening hours would affect the wait time, etc. They now open at 11:00 for lunch, and we got there about 11:25 and walked right in and ordered right away. There were other people there, but not a lot. I have a feeling this change will greatly benefit the crowding issue.

I was also happy to see some additions to the menu. They have added a few new flavor combinations as well as the option of adding some ingredients. Hubby got the shio with the yuzu option and I got the spicy miso option with an extra egg (they give you a whole egg when you get an extra one, so I gave hubby half so we both ended up with one entire egg in each soup.

I really, really liked the spicy miso better than any of the first versions I had. It was, well, spicier. And just overall more flavorful. I also liked being able to add more egg, because that is my favorite bite—a bite of noodles with a little bit of the egg. And this broth was just more interesting. Not burn your mouth spicy at all, just more going on.

I was torn on hubby’s yuzu shio. I enjoyed the addition of the citrus flavor from the yuzu, but it was pretty subtle. And it seemed like this time the dish had a lot of seaweed in it, giving it a bit of a fishy flavor. He really enjoyed it, but it was a little dominating for me. I’m not sure if they add more with the yuzu variation or it was just a fluke, but I know what I would order on my next visit, and it’s the spicy miso. For sure.

Glad to see they are getting a handle on the business and offering a little more options and flexible hours. I know a bunch of you have been here—I’ve seen your pictures on instagram. So tell me what you think.

Ramen Ray
5628 East 71st Street
Indy 46220

Monday, April 18, 2016


I was excited to try Nada because it’s from the restaurant group that owns Boca in Cincinnati, which is one of my favorite restaurants in the Midwest. I would call Nada modern Mexican cuisine—a menu that is heavy on tacos of varying flavors, with a few other appetizers and a couple of larger main dishes. There are lots of tequila-based cocktails and several beers. As for wine, it’s house white or house red.

We walked in during the IU/UK March madness game so the bar was heaving. And loud. And so not surprisingly, it took a bit to get our drinks. I ordered the blood orange margarita ($10) and hubby their version of an Old Fashioned, the “Anejo Fashioned,” made with tequila ($12). Both drinks were quite tasty. Not being a Bourbon fan myself, I liked the play on the Old Fashioned. For a second round later, hubby tried the top shelf margarita ($14) and I had their regular house margarita ($7). The top shelf was definitely smoother and more refined than the house, but honestly, they were both very good. Not sure it’s worth twice as much. But hubby may disagree.

The interior is nice-it feels very modern and is bright and colorful. A nice ambiance. Strangely, it has a lot of large tables (several sat empty much of the night) and less options for say, a party of 4. I wonder if they will seat smaller parties at those larger tables.

We started off with chips and salsa (we had the fire-roasted tomato ancho salsa) ($2) and the “Mexorean” fried chicken ($9).  The chips and salsa are very good. I love the thicker, freshly fried chips that are nice and crunchy and clearly freshly made (the layers of them start to split when they’re cooked). The salsa was also nice—the roasted flavor gave it some depth. I would certainly get chips on a return visit again—maybe try the salsa sampler or the guacamole sampler. 

Unfortunately, the fried chicken was disappointing. It was three really huge pieces of boneless breasts that were fried in a very delightful, and apparently flour free, batter. Super crisp on the outside. The chicken itself though was so large and so tough it wasn’t worth eating. Only one of the pieces, which was cut a little thinner, was even worth a couple of bites. It’s really too bad that they don’t use thinner pieces of chicken, or even better, boneless thighs, which would keep their tenderness better. The crust and the sauce (which was slightly sweet and slightly spicy) were both good. As it is though, I would not recommend it at all.

The slow drinks were unfortunately just the precursor to what was a bit of a cluster with the service for the rest of the night, which really took a turn at this point. Apparently our order got mixed up with the table next to ours—so they were served our entrées and we were served theirs about 10 minutes later. And while the men at both tables had ordered the same thing (the pork belly tacos), when hubby got his, one of the pieces of pork belly was completely missing from the taco. So both tables had to send almost everything back and they had to start over. Our server, who was very nice, was completely overwhelmed. The whole time all this fiasco was going on, none of our appetizer of empty drink glasses were cleared and our table became increasingly cramped.

We shared our tacos once we finally got the ones we ordered. As I said hubby had the pork belly tacos ($13), with a nice, crisped slice of pork belly, wonderfully cooked and not at all gelatinous. The pieces of pork sat on top of guacamole and a bit of pickled pepper and onion and some salsa. We also exercised the “add an egg” option and they added a lovely sunny egg on top of the middle taco. A little challenging to split it among the tacos, but the results were very good once you did.

Sadly the shrimp tacos ($15) that I chose were not so great. There were several small shrimps on each taco that were topped with a LOT of arugula, some queso fresco and a avocado lime dressing. The shrimp were kind of blah, and I was really hoping for more acid then was there. There were some hunks of avocado on there, but I didn’t get much from the dressing. And there was so much arugula, it almost tasted like it was more of a salad. I would pass on these next time. I am quite intrigued by the “Senor mu shu” tacos they offered. They sounded interesting. Side note: their tacos all seem to come in flour tortillas, which I guess may stand up better to some of the heartier fillings, but I still like the lightness of corn best.

At this point we decided to leave (and we weren’t offered a dessert menu anyway) and I thought it was very good form that the manager came to our table and comped all our food (as well as the table next to us). It definitely lessened the blow a bit. And about ½ of the food, and all of the drinks, were very good.

I will certainly go back, but may wait a bit to see the kinks worked out a bit more. And I hope you guys have some suggestions for which are the best tacos.

11 West Maryland
Indy 46204

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Rook - New Location Revisit

I was excited to meet a friend for lunch the other day at Rook—I hadn’t been yet to their new location. Wow, so much more sophisticated. I always felt like the old Rook’s location didn’t do enough to live up to the interesting food.

It’s a more spacious place as well, with individual tables, a bar area (looking into the open kitchen) and some larger communal tables. The menu is larger as well, although you will recognize many items from the old Rook location.

One of these return items also happens to be one of my favorites—the mushroom dumplings ($6). These are so delicious. They wonton skins are thin and delicate and having a mushroom filling gives it a fairly intense earthy flavor, but without the routine pork dumpling taste. They’re rich, but not typical. The light sauce is made with soy and vinegar and even the chunks of cucumbers (which aren’t typically my favorite thing) were tasty. I love these things and was glad they are still on the menu. 

I ordered one of the two ramen bowls ($14). It was a very interesting bowl of ramen. Besides the obvious broth and noodles, there were pickled greens, mushrooms, cabbage and a chicken rillettes with pickled mustard seeds on top. Oh yeah and one of those wonderful 63 degree eggs that are soft and just the right amount of runny inside. The flavor of the dish was very deep and almost grassy with all those greens, but I really enjoyed it. The one thing that didn’t really do it for me was that chicken rillette. I couldn’t quite figure out what I was supposed to do with it. If you cut into it in the broth, it just sort of dissolved and lost most of its flavor. It was difficult to eat. I sort of wished I had a side plate to put it on separately. I mainly just didn’t eat much of the rillette, but enjoyed the rest.
My friend had the Galbi rice bowl ($16) with Korean short ribs, avocado, pickled cucumbers, kim chi and pork cracklings. This is a solid choice—and I liked all the texture variations. It was maybe a little dry before you cracked into the egg on top, which gave it some more moisture. I loved the addition of avocado, as I always do—but in this case it lent a little bit of creaminess that was nice.

Rook is a cool spot—again one of the more interesting and creative menus you’ll find in Indy. I also appreciate that they change it up a bit all the time. And there’s beer and wine as well as cocktails now in the bigger space, which is really nice. Mostly, I appreciate the feel of the new space because it feels like it can easily be a dinner spot as well as a lunch spot. In the old location, it was hard to imagine it feeling like a destination for dinner for me anyway. Glad to see the progress.

501 Virginia Ave
Indy 46203

Monday, April 11, 2016

Wild Eggs

My friend Suzanne asked if I would go try Wild Eggs with her after she and her family tried unsuccessfully to go on a weekend (apparently the place is mobbed). So we went on a weekday at kind of a late breakfast/early lunchtime and had no problems getting in, although they were doing a steady business.

Apparently this is the first Indy location of a restaurant from Louisville (they are preparing to open one downtown apparently as well). I have never been to the Louisville branch, but apparently from what I read, it’s just as busy. The menu is one of those kind of ridiculously huge ones, with every variation of breakfast food known represented as well as several lunch sandwich-type options (and even a fried pork tenderloin and hot chicken and waffles on the day of our visit).

We had a really hard time choosing, but I went with Kalamity Katie’s Border Benedict ($10.69), Suzanne chose biscuits and gravy ($7.49), and we got a side of hashbrown casserole ($3.49). We both enjoyed everything. Suzanne commented about how the food tastes better than it looks and I think she’s totally right.

The Kalamity Benedict was a Southwest version of an eggs benedict with green chili corn cakes as the base that were topped with chorizo, poached eggs, queso fundido, pico de gallo, sour cream, green onions and avocado. The sides were skillet potatoes and an everything muffin. So yeah, basically a diet plate right? Anyhow, the benedict portion was very tasty. I really liked the variation of the corn cakes—they had a great flavor. The chorizo was also good, but they didn’t use so much that it overpowered everything. I loved the freshness of the pico, avocado and onions on top as well. My only gripe was that one of the eggs was cooked a little too far and wasn’t very runny inside. The everything muffin tasted good, but needed butter, which our server cheerfully brought. It had an interesting flavor almost more like a biscuit or a scone—very buttery. The potatoes were a disappointment. Not very crisp, and not much flavor. I think I ate 2. Next time I would ask if I could sub something else.

Like the hashbrown casserole for instance. You look at it and think it won’t taste good. It looks very boring. But it is very tasty. And homey. It is made with hashbrown potatoes cooked with sour cream, cheddar jack cheese, onions and spices. While it had a slightly crisp edge, it had a creamy, flavorful interior. It was very comforting and we both kept going in for more bites.

The biscuits and gravy also didn’t look super impressive, but the taste of the chorizo-based gravy was very nice. Just a nice amount of seasoning mixed with an appropriate amount of sausage. The biscuits themselves could use something to give them a little more interest. Maybe if they were flakier or a little crisper on the edges. They were fine as the base for the dish, but nothing about them individually stood out. Also, there just wasn’t quite enough gravy on the dish for the biscuits, but again, our very attentive server was happy to bring us a little dish of extra.

Overall, there are a lot of really good sounding items on this menu and I was fairly impressed with what I had. They also have a small wine-based drink list if you’re looking for a boozy brunch. I would definitely return, but will make sure to go during the week, as I did this time. Anyone else been yet or been to the one in Louisville?

Wild Eggs
1438 West Main Street
Carmel, IN 46032

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Naisa - Revisit

I met a friend for lunch at Naisa for the first time in ages and ages---they had been closed down for many months and honestly because of that, it had sort of left my mind as an option. But we remembered it and went back to see how they were doing.

The meals (all around $8) come with a soup and a crab Rangoon. We both chose the hot and sour soup. It had a nice flavor and a sufficient amount of heat, as well as nice chunks of tofu and mushrooms. But it had a lot of oil floating on top, which kind of stuck to your lips. It tasted good, but I just would have preferred something a bit lighter and would try one of the other options next time. I do love the little crunchy wontons they serve along with the soup. They are nice in the soup.

I also ordered some of the pork dumplings ($5.95) and asked for them pan fried (you can get them steamed as well). Ok, they were basically pot stickers and honestly, they weren’t my favorite. The dumpling filling just sort of fell out in a ball—they weren’t overly integrated and the skins a little chewy. 

The entrees were decent. I had the chicken with garden veggies because the veggie options with it sounded the best. It had broccoli, zucchini, baby corn, carrots and mushrooms. I am not a fan of bell peppers, so I skipped the dishes with them in it and went for this one. The chicken was tender and the sauce was nice—not spicy but had a decent depth of flavor. The veggies were nice and crisp tender—not just crisp. I hate it when Chinese dishes taste like they just threw the veggies in raw. I also liked the little crab Rangoon they serve with your entrée, just to give you a little treat. They never blow my mind anywhere, but this one was good and crunchy.

Overall, it’s good to see Naisa back and in business. They have a nice interior and the service was very good. It’s a good to have at least one option for Chinese food in Fountain Square—heck, it’s good to have an option for Chinese food downtown—there are so few. It’s solid, even if it’s not spectacular.

1025 Virginia Avenue
Indy 46203

Monday, April 4, 2016

Omoni Fresh Fast Korean Grill

My friend Suzanne asked me to try the new Korean place in Carmel—their tagline is “Fast. Fresh. Korean Grill.” It’s an interesting concept—there are a handful of different options—mainly all revolving around picking a meat choice (bulgogi beef, chicken or pork) and then adding veggies—depending on the dish dictates how many you get. There are a ton of choices, some are spicy, some are pickled, some are just steamed and then there are things like kim chi as well. The veggies are all cold and unless you order particular dishes, they are served cold with your warm rice and meat (there are also 3 different rice options). It’s basically set up taqueria style, or Subway style, where you walk down the line and make your choices as you go. If it were really busy, I’m guessing it might be a bit time consuming because there are so many options, and I’m guessing this is a type of cuisine many are not that familiar with.

I really wanted a hot dish so I ordered #2 Dolsot Bibimbap ($10.40). This is a compilation of the above ingredients in a hot stone bowl. And when they say hot, they are not kidding. This dish stayed smoking hot the entire time I was eating it. I chose steamed rice topped with the bulgogi beef, and bean sprouts, zucchini, pickled radish, spinach, and spicy radish. It also has a fried egg on top. Suzanne had a similar version with some slightly different veggies.

All mixed together
So the cool thing about dolsot bibimbap is the way the super hot bowl crisps up the bottom edge of the rice giving the whole dish an added crunchy texture. This one certainly did this in spades. You kind of mix everything together and eat it like that. We also used a lot of their seasoned soy sauce on our dishes (they give you this at the register and yes, you need to get it). There is hot sauce and regular soy that you can use at your table and I recommend a little of the hot sauce as well. Once you play with it and add some of these extra seasonings, you end up with an enjoyable, comforting dish. I wished the egg was a bit runnier just to add a little more yolkiness, but that’s me (and it kept cooking a lot in that smoking hot bowl.—I think you could put it in there raw and it would totally cook during the time you were eating it).

This is one of those cuisines that takes adding your own taste to to get it where you want it. It’s a nice thing to throw into the rotation if you live in the area and want a fast food type option, but don’t want to actually eat crappy fast food. There’s a lot more freshness about the ingredients and at least it’s more interesting than another wimpy fast food burger. I can’t say it would be a destination for me personally, being up in Carmel, and based on what I had, but I would be interested to try it again at some point. It’s also run by a family with a passion for this food, and they are helpful and eager to please—it’s nice to see. (Side note: they need different napkins! They are the size of a credit card and you need about 23 to eat a meal. This is one of my restaurant pet peeves). Anyhow, who else has been?

Omoni Fresh Fast Korean Grill
13710 N. Meridian Street
Carmel, IN  46032